Elon Musk didn’t just break DeSantis, he wrecked Twitter

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If there is a museum of desperate spin, Elon Musk and his investor pal David Sacks became its star exhibits when they claimed Ron DeSantis “broke the internet.”

In fact, their ineptitude may well have broken Twitter — permanently.

In case you missed it, Florida governor DeSantis tried to launch his presidential campaign in a Twitter Spaces hosted by Musk. As many as 700,000 users (a decent number, but nowhere near a record for Spaces, let alone the internet) waited for half an hour while the livestream crashed repeatedly. Sacks and Musk, seated in the same room, caused feedback on each others’ microphones.

The event proceeded in a new stream on Sacks’ account, where roughly 160,000 users heard DeSantis announce his run. Musk had claimed DeSantis would be “taking questions from the audience(opens in a new tab).” In fact, Sacks and Musk (who was now speaking only through Sacks’ microphone) called on a GOP congressman, two conservative talk show hosts, and a former member of DeSantis’ administration.

The fix was in, and worse — the result was boring. (Even one of Musk’s top Twitter pals, the account known as Catturd2, announced he was quitting the stream to watch paint dry(opens in a new tab).) The hashtag #DeSaster was trending for hours afterwards. But perhaps the most important bellwether of the evening was Linda Yaccarino, the incoming Twitter CEO, unreservedly praising the “historical” event. (opens in a new tab)

Yaccarino was handpicked because of her relationships with advertisers, who are responsible for nearly all of Twitter’s revenue and have been in quitting in droves. But if the new CEO is merely going to praise her boss like a North Korean news anchor, turning a blind eye to obvious incompetence, it’s hard to see how ad agencies will be won over.

It isn’t entirely about the politics. Even if you aren’t disturbed by Musk’s hard-right trolling or the unprecedented rise in hate speech on Twitter(opens in a new tab), even if you don’t mind that he put his thumb on the scale for a presidential candidate after accusing previous Twitter leadership of doing exactly that, it’s hard to avoid the impression that Twitter leadership simply does not care that its technology is melting down.

Widespread outages are on the rise(opens in a new tab), and few employees remain to fix them. Among last year’s Musk-led layoffs: The entire Twitter Spaces team(opens in a new tab). Whoops! (Twitter Spaces was built hurriedly on top of the code for Periscope, a video streaming app; its coders have repeatedly warned that it is still a beta product.)

Musk seems to genuinely believe he can turn Twitter into an “everything app(opens in a new tab),” one that includes payments. But how do you feel about giving your credit card details to a guy who doesn’t even seem to understand how microphone feedback works? The anemic growth of Twitter Blue subscribers doesn’t suggest a great deal of confidence in Musk’s new direction.

The new owner wants more creators to post longform video to Twitter, but he’s also made it a haven for copyright piracy. Eight hours before the DeSantis Twitter Space melted down, one user managed to upload the entirety of John Wick 4, released in theaters just two months ago, to the service. It was finally taken down sometime after midnight, East Coast time, after about 11 hours. Good luck getting Hollywood advertising!

“You know you’re breaking new ground when there’s bugs and scaling issues,” Sacks said on Wednesday night. Which is rather like the captain of the Titanic praising the iceberg for “breaking new ground” in open-plan engine rooms. What presidential candidate, celebrity or other Twitter influencer is going to want to be that kind of pioneer?

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, and we finished strong,” Sacks said when he wrapped up his second attempt to launch DeSantis. But by that point he was talking to 300,000 people, less than half the number who’d tried to watch the first attempt.

The museum of desperate spin may need a new room just to accommodate all the irony.

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Abraham
Expert tech and gaming writer, blending computer science expertise